The City Paper's biggest issue of the year, the Best Of Baltimore issue, is out today, and as usual, it's a great celebration of all the things happening in the city. One thing of lesser importance that I also wanted to note: it is the last issue which will feature The Short List, a weekly column about upcoming concerts that had run in City Paper for decades under many bylines, including mine for the past 3 years.
I've had a lot of columns and recurring features in City Paper and other outlets over the years, and usually they run their course after a couple years and I don't really bother to point out when they come to an end, both because it's not a big deal and because I don't want to sound like I'm whining about an outlet or editor who I enjoy working with and made a perfectly reasonable decision about their budget or editorial direction. But in this case I thought I'd mention it, since The Short List has been in the paper for as long as I can remember reading it for the past two decades (as a 13-year-old who didn't realize how doomed he already was to become a music critic, I would cut reviews out of newspapers and magazines, and in 1995 I was saving Lee Gardner's City Paper pieces alongside Rolling Stone and Spin reviews). CP founder Russ Smith told me that The Short List didn't exist when he sold the paper in '87, so it ain't 30 years old, but it's at least 20 years old.
The Short List has mostly been the responsibility of the music editor over the years, but Anna Ditkoff had a really memorable tenure writing it, and has remained an inspiration to me for how a fairly nondescript concert directory can be funny and opinionated and even inspire hate mail. I don't know how people put it together before every venue had a frequently updated website, but even in the present day it's been a beast to assemble, and any day I had some free time I usually combed a couple venue websites adding shows to a giant messy word document. Writing 40 or 50 sentences a week about 40 or 50 shows is a little more like data entry than music criticism, but I always tried to sneak something intriguing or funny in for whoever was trying to figure out what to see that night.
Although there's a music section in the City Paper that continues to be edited, there hasn't been an individual whose only title was 'music editor' since Michael Byrne left in 2012, which is when I was brought in to write it for the time being. I had no idea how long it would last, and 3 years and 3 months is longer than I expected. Having a freelancer write The Short List was, I'm sure, cheaper than hiring another music editor, but not as cheap as discontinuing The Short List entirely. And I don't say that bitterly -- the people running the business have to run the business, and I'd rather they cut that than any number of other, more important things. I'll make my daycare money writing other things, for City Paper and elsewhere, that I frankly often wished I had more time to work on when I was sweating to meet the Short List deadline every week. So I'm good with this change, but I wanted to say a quick eulogy for The Short List, as the last of many who oversaw it over the last couple decades.
9/18/15 EDIT: This post has inspired an informative and entertaining Facebook thread with several former City Paper editors, including David Dudley, who confirmed originating The Short List in 1993 or 1994.